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Israelis flock to this tiny town in Peru for vacation — and psychedelic spirituality

PISAC, Peru (JTA) — About 20 miles northeast of the tourist capital of Cusco, the small Peruvian town of Pisac sits nestled among the verdant Andes Mountains. Lined with cobblestone streets and two-story adobe houses, the town offers a distinct blend of ancient Incan culture and breathtaking landscapes. 

Pisac’s main square, Plaza de Armas, is often filled with Indigenous women pulling alpacas, local art dealers selling their handmade artisanal wares and kids playing soccer — nothing out of the ordinary for a tourist town in the Andes. But directly across from the plaza’s church, a recent addition to the square stands out.

A yellow flag with a blue crown is draped over the bannister of one of the two-story buildings flanking the square, reading “Mashiach” — “Messiah” in Hebrew.

The flag marks the building as an outpost of the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which has placed emissaries in dozens of countries. Opened in April, the Pisac outpost is Chabad’s third in Peru, after Lima and Cusco. Leaders of Chabad Cusco decided to send an emissary to open a branch in Pisac because of a trend that locals here have noticed over the past few years: the town’s popularity with Israeli tourists.

In Pisac, Hebrew is often heard more consistently on the streets than English or Quechua, the most widely spoken of Peru’s indigenous languages. The local Chabad rabbi said that 50-100 people pack his Shabbat services every week. Multiple restaurants have translated their menus to Hebrew. Dozens of yellow stickers are scattered around the town of around 10,000 featuring the face of the Chabad movement’s former leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, commonly known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe. 

“I love it here,” said Liad Shor, a 26-year-old Israeli who has been in Pisac for more than a month. “Pisac is a very known place for Israelis to travel, so I wanted to check how it is.”

Pisac sits in the Andes Mountains, 20 miles outside of Cusco. (Jacob Kessler)

The town is increasingly becoming a part of the “Hummus Trail,” an informal route that many young Israelis follow after completing their mandatory army service. Functioning through word of mouth, the Hummus Trail has been used to refer to places in Southeast Asia, but in recent years it has been applied to regions of Latin America, too. Various stops across South America have become so popular with Israelis that locals have started to cater specifically to them.

But Pisac is not only a layover for young Israeli tourists looking for a few days of peace and quiet. Many slightly older Israelis, attracted to the spirituality infused in everyday life in Pisac — often involving locally-grown psychedelic substances — have chosen to call Pisac their permanent home.

Nitzan Levy, a 30-year-old Israeli from the Jerusalem area, is among the dozens of Israelis — possibly hundreds — who have moved to Pisac and the wider Sacred Valley region as an escape from Israeli society. 

“I’m making up data, but it’s like 80% of Israelis are living with post-traumatic stress,” Levy told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I mean, it’s a tough environment to live in when you’re constantly in survival mode. So, living in alternative communities like here, or also like in Costa Rica, or in Guatemala, or in Thailand… you can get away from the intensity of it all and find your own healing. Because all of us have experienced war in some way or other and we need to heal as a society, but we cannot do it in Israel yet.” 

With a non-Israeli friend, Nitzan Levy opened up Masa Mamita, a small cafe in Pisac. On Saturdays, they serve hummus and she occasionally makes jachnun, a traditional Yemeni-Jewish dish. (Jacob Kessler)

The “healing” Nitzan refers to often comes in the form of what locals label “planta medicina,” or psychedelics such as ayahuasca and San Pedro. For visitors from around the world, not only Israelis, Pisac has become a haven for those who wish to have an encounter with these plants, which can temporarily alter one’s state of reality and heighten one’s senses. It is legal here to partake in plant medicine ceremonies, and many decide to do so to heal childhood trauma, cure deeply-rooted addictions or attempt to have an encounter with the divine. 

Aminadav Shvat, a 36-year-old Israeli, also decided to settle in Pisac for the spirituality and plant medicine he found here. He was drawn to San Pedro, a psychedelic cactus indigenous to the Andes. He spoke to JTA while wearing tefillin from inside an Israeli restaurant he opened up in Pisac last year. 

“When we try some psychedelics, we actually find a connection very similar to Moshe Rabbeinu with the sneh,” Shvat said, referring to the biblical story of Moses and the burning bush. “We strengthen the connection between humans and God.”

“So I came to the Sacred Valley to try San Pedro but I stayed because there is a community of people working on themselves spiritually,” he added. “There’s a lot of magic here.”

Aminadav Shvat stands outside his restaurant in Pisac, next to an easel advertising some of the Israeli dishes he serves. (Jacob Kessler)

Shvat, who comes from a family of rabbis, decided to settle in Pisac and open a restaurant to serve as a gathering place for Jewish travelers. He organizes Shabbat dinners that are occasionally frequented by non-Jewish locals and last year organized an “alternative” Yom Kippur service complete with a meditation by a river. 

Rabbi Ariel Kadosh, the 25-year-old leader of Chabad Pisac and a former student at Chabad Cusco, had originally wanted to open up a branch of Chabad in Morocco with his wife Talia.

“At first, I had never heard of Pisac,” Kadosh said. “But after arriving here, we realized that people come to Pisac for spiritual experiences…so I think it’s a really good place for a Chabad.”

Kadosh disagrees with those who try to connect with spirituality through psychedelic substances, but he does welcome the opportunity to speak with travelers about god and other spiritual topics after they have a psychedelic journey.  

He told a story of a spiritual seeker who wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe asking about the permissibility of using LSD as a means to connect with god. In response, the Rebbe said that the “Jewish way” is to attain spiritual heights through struggle.

“For me, specifically, I don’t think it’s right,” Kadosh said about the use of psychedelics. “The Rebbe says it is not our way.” 

Rabbi Ariel Kadosh and his wife Talia lead the Chabad in Pisac, Peru. (Courtesy of Ariel Kadosh)

Despite the town’s peaceful facade, not everyone is happy with the influx of Israelis. Some locals expressed frustration to JTA with the young Israeli travelers, who they claim try to haggle excessively when buying things. Aminadav pointed to another phenomenon. 

“On the corner of the street, I put a sign in Hebrew for my restaurant,” says Aminadav. “And someone put a sticker of the Palestinian flag with the words ‘Israel, killer state.’”

Although the Schneerson stickers outnumber the ones with the Palestinian flag, the latter can also be found throughout the town.

Then last week, reports of a violent attack inside the Chabad house circulated on social media. In a post in a community Facebook group, someone accused a Chabad student of attacking a woman and threatening her with a blade. Comments on this post ranged from disbelief to statements such as: “Isn’t that what they do in Palestine everyday?”    

The Chabad leaders claimed that a drunken local couple entered the building at 2 a.m. and started to make antisemitc comments, adding that the student was simply defending himself. Local police said that neither side had reported the incident in the end.

The new Chabad leaders are deterred by the recent tensions. Kadosh said that he plans on teaching Kabbalah classes on the roof of the new Chabad building and also wants to host nigun sessions, which involves chanting spiritual Hasidic melodies. 

Kadosh claims that 50-100 show up to his Shabbat meals. (Courtesy of Kadosh)

After working with Israelis for more than 30 years, Sergio Quispe Maita can understand “70 to 80 percent of Hebrew.” He began learning the language while working as a cook at an Israeli restaurant in Cusco called Nargila. He committed to learning three words a day, and now he converses in Hebrew at his very own Israeli restaurant in Pisac called Nafis.

Maita’s restaurant is attached to Colores Hostel, one of the most popular hostels in Pisac for young Israelis — to the extent that some in town have even labeled it the “Israeli hostel.” So the local restaurateur has daily opportunities to practice his Hebrew. 

“Thank God, I speak the language, so I understand them,” he said. “And I know that with time, Pisac will be filled with many more Israelis because it is a small town and is very attractive to people looking to enjoy the quiet.”

The post Israelis flock to this tiny town in Peru for vacation — and psychedelic spirituality appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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